China has become more sophisticated, but not all of their habits have. This new wealth has led to an increase in Chinese tourists who have money, but no manners.
Chinese tourists and their crude behavior have received a lot of bad press. They wash their feet at the Lourve, shovel plates of food in Thailand, deface a 3,500 year old Egyptian temple, throw hot noodles at a Thai flight attendant – the list goes on. These tourists are now blacklisted from traveling. I hang my head in shame. All I can say in disgrace is, “Yea, I know but we’re not all like that.”
What reason could there possibly be for them to behave so repulsively? I am not justifying their actions. I just want to understand. China, as a country, has grown and developed at such a rapid pace that the people, clearly, have not caught up in mindset and etiquette. The influx of cash and investment has quickly made its way to China’s countryside. A growing population have the money, but not the manners, to travel abroad and represent themselves to a world outside of their country where certain actions are just not be acceptable in public.
I know that it’s not all Chinese tourists. My family is from Guangdong and they certainly did not raise their children and grandchildren to behave so barbarically. Is it a regional thing – country pumpkins vs civilized city dwellers? Despite growing accustomed to a certain standard of living after China’s industrial boom – western toilets, colossal shopping malls, shiny cars, and brand name accessories – I must admit that they are still a little bit country in habit, but certainly not manners.
My maternal grandparents live in a gated community in a 5th floor walk-up. The apartment is cluttered with just…clutter – peanuts, cigarettes, shoes, boxes of teas, paint brushes, etc. Newspapers are layered across the dining table to catch bones, crumbs and sauces. Despite shower heads, my grandparents still prefer to bathe sitting in a tiny stool with a bucket and sponge. And the kitchen, always looks worn – mostly because the humid weather isn’t very conducive to preserving anything, but also because my grandparents prefer using their old kitchen appliances and tools.
In a world that’s changing too fast for them to catch up, what’s familiar is what’s preferred. Everything about the kitchen says, “This is an Asian kitchen.” These little reminders keep me humble. It adds color to my character and makes me go, “Oh, that’s why I was raised this way”.
I was raised to not pick my nose in public, to not clip my toenails on the train, to not pee on the side streets and to not hock loogies in the marketplace. I hope Chinese tourists will one day realize that their crass behavior is not only a reflection of them, but of Chinese people around the world. Please don’t make it so hard for me to defend your actions. What do I say when my friends go, “Did you hear about that Chinese kid shitting in front of a Burberry store?” True story. Google it.